From armed service to public service

Both sides of the aisle are hiring legislative assistants with military experience to advise lawmakers on national security.

With the Army, the CIA and the Pentagon listed in succession on his résumé, 31-year-old Russell Rumbaugh joined Rep. Jim Cooper’s (D-Tenn.) office as the legislative assistant in charge of defense, intelligence and national security issues.

“I like working with people who know a lot about defense and are trying to have Congress play a valuable role in our national security,” he said.

From Omaha, Neb., Rumbaugh has long been fascinated by the relationship between defense policy and international relations. War is a common topic in his personal library of about 800 books. He earned a political science degree from the University of Chicago and a master’s degree in security studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

From 1998 to 2002, Rumbaugh served as an infantry officer in the Army and spent seven months deployed in Kosovo. He said he remembers being impressed “watching … the U.S. flexing its might” and wielding international influence.

He then worked for the CIA as a military analyst for a year before spending two years at the Pentagon in program analysis and evaluation in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. His team worked as a negotiating bridge between planners, who developed strategies, and budgeters, who put price tags on those strategies.

After a couple weeks on the Hill, Rumbaugh said he appreciates the patience of his colleagues while he learns the intricacies of Congress.

“It’s a complex world, I think, with a lot to learn,” he said. “But it’s also exciting.”

Rumbaugh said this is a particularly exciting time because his boss recently became chairman of a new panel created by the House Armed Services Committee to investigate the changing responsibilities of the U.S. military.

Meanwhile, Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-Ohio) recently gave her scheduler, James Langenderfer, responsibility for defense, homeland security and veterans issues. A native of Toledo, Ohio, 30-year-old Langenderfer is an Army Ranger who served in Iraq as a scout sniper. He said his experience does provide insight, although he plays down his expertise.

“I would hate to flaunt my experience and say I’m an expert on all things Iraq,” he said. “I had a small part to play, and I played my part. But it doesn’t make me an expert.”

Langenderfer earned a degree in political science from Ohio University and joined the infantry just days after Sept. 11, 2001. He said he had long planned to join the military, both to prepare for a future in politics and to pay off school loans, and the Sept. 11 attacks only made things more interesting.

In five years of service he completed two tours of duty in Iraq, including participating in the initial invasion. His unit took the lead in raids and reconnaissance, scouting areas before the rest of the battalion followed.

“I enjoyed every minute of it,” he said. “Sometimes I miss it.”

After Iraq, Langenderfer interned for the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship before being hired as Schmidt’s scheduler about six months ago. For someone who enjoyed active duty in Iraq, it’s not surprising that Langenderfer has a hard time calling his new legislative assistant job difficult.

“There’s really nothing hard about working here,” he said. “The hardest part is listening to [House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi [D-Calif.]. No, just kidding. I guess ‘hard’ is relative. And this is a cakewalk.”


Aloysius Hogan (pronounced “Aloe-ishus”)

Position: Chief of staff to Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.)
Hometown: Vienna, Va.
Age: 42
Last job: Legislative director to Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.)
First job: Caddie
Most unusual job: Mini-mite hockey coach
Claim to fame: Having played most of the top 100 golf courses in the world.
Most inspirational figures: My family — wife, Jennifer Hogan, and children, Reagan (9), Jack (7), and Susannah (5)
Management style: “Hire well-grounded, seasoned staff and pray.”
Favorite political TV show or movie: “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “Broadcast News”
Professional dream: One of the gems of Georgia’s 10th district — playing golf at Augusta National
Education: B.S. in biology from University of Notre Dame and J.D. from Notre Dame Law School
Religion: Catholic

By Betsy Rothstein